On July 1st of 2014, the Brewers were in first place, and had the second best record in major league baseball. Since that date, they've played 157 games, and produced a record of 63-94 (.401). It's been a tumultuous time in Milwaukee, and the collapse of their team cost Ron Roenicke his job, and made them clear sellers as July 31st gets nearer.
The Brewers don't have many star players to trade, but GM Doug Melvin has a lot of pieces to deal and entice other teams with.
Who are the likely candidates to be traded?
On the offensive side of things, Milwaukee has four players that could potentially wind up playing for another team before the deadline has passed.
Of these four, Adam Lind is safest bet to be on his way out. He leads the team in almost every offensive category, and has an ISO of .221, which is good for 21st in the National League. Lind has a team option on his contract for the 2016 season at $8 million, which will help boost his value in any trade talks. By wRC+, he's 43 percent better than the average major league hitter, and with power at a premium in the current run scoring environment, Melvin should be able to bring back an impact prospect for Lind.
Aramis Ramirez has very little value at this point, but if a team comes calling with any trade offer, it would be wise for the Brewers to take it. He's publicly said that 2015 is his final season, and with his struggles this year, Milwaukee would be lucky to get anything for him.
There haven't been many rumors of the Brewers trading Carlos Gomez, which a quick search on Twitter will confirm, but he has been linked to his former club, the Minnesota Twins. They haven't received much value from their contingent of outfielders, and it makes sense that they'd be looking for an upgrade.
Gomez hasn't had the best season, but he was fantastic in 2013 and 2014. He's signed through 2016, and isn't likely to stay in Milwaukee if they choose to hold onto him. Scott Boras is his agent, which all but guarantees he'll be priced out of what they'd be comfortable with.
Another outfielder that is likely on the move is Gerardo Parra. He's recently been connected to the Giants, as he's long been a target of Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans.
They've liked Parra forever. Arizona wouldn't deal him within division. https://t.co/sTcp1kApYT— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 6, 2015
Parra is a free agent at the end of the season, which will drive his value down, but that shouldn't stop the Brewers from trading him. There will be more than a few teams in the market for an outfielder, which will help Melvin when it's time to pull the trigger.
As for pitching, there's less for Milwaukee to work with. Mike Fiers is having a great season, but he's signed through 2019, and the Brewers might be unwilling to let him go. However he's already 30 years old, and with four years left before he can reach free agency, Fiers might be able to bring back a better than average prospect package. The Blue Jays, Angles, and Tigers are all known to be looking for starting pitching, and they could look to acquire Fiers as an immediate, and somewhat long term solution.
Kyle Lohse could also be on the move, however he's having an awful season, and a team would probably be reluctant to give up anything of value to trade for him. Getting the rest of his contract off the books might be enough, as the Brewers would save roughly $5 million and could put it elsewhere when the time is right.
From the bullpen, Neal Cotts is an extremely obvious candidate to be traded. He's a free agent after this season, and as a left-handed pitcher with solid numbers in 2015, there will be more than enough interest in trading for him.
The unlikely but not impossible group
One thing that the Brewers will have to evaluate and come to a conclusion on, is how far away they are from contending again. If the answer that they reach is one or two years, then it wouldn't make sense to part with some of the following players. However if Melvin and his team agree that they're four or five years away, then they could undoubtedly be on the table.
Jonathan Lucroy is signed through the 2017 season, and with very few catchers on the market, he'd fetch quite the prospect package if he was made available. However that's the biggest road block as of this moment. The Braves inquired about him, "but were told he is unavailable, according to a report from Jon Heyman". Lucroy's availability comes down to whether or not Melvin thinks his club can contend again in the next two seasons. If he's still on the team come August 1st, then we seemingly have our answer.
Another player that almost certainly isn't going anywhere is Ryan Braun. He's owed $111 million from 2016-2021, which comes out to an AAV of $18.5 million. The Brewers are a small market team, and if they're not contending, that's an awful lot of money to commit to one player. Like the Lucroy situation, Milwaukee will need to realistically assess their future, and decide what makes the most sense regarding Braun. If they project to have a winning team again in 2018 or 2019, then it would make sense to hold onto Braun, as he'd still have three or four years left on his contract.
The Brewers also have three pitchers that could be on the move, but because of salary obligations, it might be difficult to convince a team to trade for them. Matt Garza is owed $25 million over the next two seasons, and with his serious decline in 2015, he's almost assuredly not going anywhere. While writing this article, he was placed on the 15-day DL, and seemingly any chance of a team wanting to acquire him disappeared.
RHP Matt Garza placed on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis, retroactive to 7/3. RHP Corey Knebel recalled from Triple-A @skysox.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) July 6, 2015
Aside from Garza, the Brewers also have Jonathan Broxton and Francisco Rodriguez as potential bullpen pieces to trade.
Relief pitchers have been in high demand since the Royals three headed monster dominated in 2014, and teams quickly adopted the fast follower strategy. Rodriguez has posted fantastic numbers across the board, and while Broxton's ERA is ugly, his other metrics are solid. However due to their contract situations, the Brewers have received little interest on either player.
Ken Ronsenthal reported in late June that since K-Rod "is owed $9.5 million after this season -- $7.5 million in 2016 salary and a $2 million buyout on a $6 million club option for 2017", there didn't seem to be much interest in his services. While that still might be true, there are more than a few teams who could desperately use relief help. The Tigers, Red Sox, and Twins are all potential suitors for one of Milwaukee's relievers, but as of now there isn't much chatter.
The Brewers clearly have options in the lead up to the trade deadline, but it remains to be seen how they plan on approaching it. If they're in full rebuild mode, then they have seven or eight players who could be available uniforms in the near future. However if they expect to contend again in the next two or three seasons, that number is significantly lower.